His election into the powerful Politburo standing committee five years ago was seen as the outcome of a balancing act, but Wu Bangguo has since stood firm, surviving the fall of the Shanghai faction.
In his recent role as No2 in the party and chairman of the country's legislature, the National People's Congress, Mr Wu, 66, has strengthened the party's supremacy over the constitution.
Legal analysts also say that under Mr Wu's leadership, the NPC has evolved little from its symbolic 'rubber stamp' status given that any move towards an independent legislature would require examination of fundamental and taboo issues, such as the relationship between the party and the legislature.
Mr Wu announced four years ago that he planned to establish a framework for a socialist legal system during his term, a direction legal experts confirm the body is steadily moving towards, with laws promoting an orderly market economy advancing fastest.
But the NPC has made great achievements in legislation, especially in terms of the judicial process, market supervision and social order.
A series of laws in these areas has been passed or had drafts submitted for review, including the landmark Property Law, which came into effect this month and offers the same protection for private property as for state and collectively owned property.
This year, the NPC also approved the Anti-Monopoly Law, the country's first comprehensive competition law, which could break up state-run monopolies and places new restrictions on foreign purchases of mainland companies.
In addition, Mr Wu oversaw the passage of the Anti-Secession Law law in 2005, which formalised Beijing's long-standing threat to use 'non-peaceful means' against Taiwan if the island declared independence.
During a visit to Hong Kong in June, Mr Wu made no secret that the city 'shall have as much power as authorised by the central government'.
Despite his deep Shanghai roots, Mr Wu is seen as only loosely aligned with the Shanghai faction, those officials with municipal connections who supported former president Jiang Zemin . His low-key approach has also aroused the least resentment within the present administration.
Mr Wu seems not to have been implicated in the multibillion-yuan Shanghai pension fund case, although he is believed to be a behind-the-scenes supporter of Chen Liangyu , who was deposed as the city's party secretary and awaits trial for his alleged role in the scandal.
A native of Feidong county in Anhui province , Mr Wu built his political base in Shanghai, starting as an engineer in the Shanghai No3 Electronic Tube Factory after graduating in 1967 from the department of radio and electronics at Tsinghua University. He remained at the factory until 1980.
He became the deputy secretary of the party committee of Shanghai's industrial bureau in 1982 and was promoted to deputy secretary of the municipality's party committee, thanks to his engineering background.
Mr Wu is believed not only to have worked closely with former premier Zhu Rongji and Mr Jiang, who both served in Shanghai as party secretaries, but also to have won favour from late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping .
In 1991, Mr Wu became party chief of the city, succeeding Mr Zhu, who moved to Beijing as vice-premier.
Mr Wu joined the Politburo in 1992, and in March 1995 moved to Beijing to serve as a vice-premier in charge of industry and state-owned enterprises. He acted as front man for reforming state-owned enterprises, which were drastically downsized with the loss of millions of jobs.